Index of Species Information

WILDLIFE SPECIES:  Accipiter striatus


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Accipiter striatus
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Accipiter striatus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: 18 July 2013: DeGraaf, Richard M.; Rudis, Deborah D. 2001 citation corrected to DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 2001. ABBREVIATION : ACST COMMON NAMES : sharp-shinned hawk blue darter sparrow hawk TAXONOMY : The accepted scientific name of sharp-shinned hawk is Accipiter striatus Vieillot [1,48]. There are 10 generally accepted subspecies. The American Ornithologists' Union notes that some of the subspecies are sometimes given species status. Geographic variation of the subspecies is clinal and complex. Sharp-shinned hawks in Mexico are larger than those in the rest of North America. Subspecies in the West Indies are generally smaller than North American birds [23]. The subspecies that occur in Canada and the United States are [22,39]: Accipiter striatus velox (Wilson) (Canada, U. S.) Accipiter striatus. perobscurus Snyder (Queen Charlotte Is., B. C.) The subspecies occurring from Mexico to South America are [22,39]: Accipiter striatus suttoni van Rossem (northern Mexico) Accipiter striatus madrensis Storer (southwestern Mexico) Accipiter striatus chionogaster Kaup (southern Mexico, Guatemala to Nicaragua) Accipiter striatus ventralis Sclater (western Venezuela, Columbia to western Bolivia) Accipiter striatus erythronemius Kaup (eastern Bolivia and southern Brazil to Uruguay) Subspecies occurring on islands in the West Indies are [22,39]: Accipiter striatus fringilloides Vigors (Cuba) Accipiter striatus striatus Vieillot (Hispaniola) Accipiter striatus venator Wetmore (Puerto Rico) ORDER : Falconiformes CLASS : Bird FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : The Puerto Rican sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus venator) is Endangered [61]. OTHER STATUS : Information on state-level protected status of animals is available at NatureServe.


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Accipiter striatus
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The sharp-shinned hawk breeds from western and central Alaska and northern Yukon Territory east to the Atlantic coast, and south to southern California, southern Texas, the northern parts of the Gulf States, and South Carolina [10,39,50]. Sharp-shinned hawks winter from Vancouver Island, southern British Columbia, western Montana, Nebraska, southern Minnesota, Illinois, southern Michigan, southern Ontario, New York, southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire, southern Maryland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia south to Panama and the Bahamas [10,39,50]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES11 Spruce-fir FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir-spruce FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES32 Texas savanna FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon-juniper STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : Sharp-shinned hawks occur in almost every forest type. SAF COVER TYPES : Sharp-shinned hawks occur in almost every forest type. SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY PLANT COMMUNITIES : The sharp-shinned hawk occurs primarily in coniferous forests, but is also found in boreal mixed conifer-birch-aspen forests [50]. It is less common in other woodland types, except in mountainous areas [10]. Open areas are used for foraging but not for nesting. Diem and Zeveloff [11] listed sharp-shinned hawks as members of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) bird communities in the western United States. Breeding: In Colorado, sharp-shinned hawks breed in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and conifer (Picea spp., Abies spp., Pinus spp., and Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests. Nests are usually only built in conifer stands; within quaking aspen forests, nests are built in patches of conifers within aspen stands [24]. In Missouri, most sharp-shinned hawk nesting occurs in plantation pine (mostly shortleaf pine [Pinus echinata]) with some nests in mixed pine-hardwoods [54]. Optimal breeding habitat in the southeastern states is mixed pine-hardwoods. Marginal breeding habitat includes eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)-eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), cove hardwoods (hardwood forests on mesic sites), and maple (Acer spp.)-beech (Fagus spp.)-birch (Betula spp.) [27]. Mansell [35] recorded a sharp-shinned hawk nest in a field that had numerous clumps of small pines and spruces. Foraging: In Colorado, sharp-shinned hawks were observed hunting in mature aspen (Populus spp.), conifer, and mixed aspen-conifer forests [24]. In southern Arizona, sharp-shinned hawks were frequently seen perched or flying in dense stands of mature mesquite (Prosopis spp.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), wolfberry (Lycium spp.), and falsemesquite (Calliandra spp.) along sandy washes and around stock tanks, which constitutes habitat preferred by Gambel's quail (Callipepla gambelii) but not by scaled quail (C. squamata) [17]. Wintering: In California riparian woodland, sharp-shinned hawks were present from August to May but were not present during the breeding season [32]. In southern California, sharp-shinned hawks were commonly seen in chaparral (Adenostoma, Ceanothus, and Arctostaphylos spp.) except during the summer months [55]. Optimum winter habitat for sharp-shinned hawks in the southeastern states is live oak (Quercus virginiana)-maritime forest. Suitable habitat in the southeastern states for wintering sharp-shinned hawks includes tropical hardwood forest, southern scrub oak (Quercus spp.), southern mixed-mesic hardwoods, bay swamp-pocosin, pond pine (P. serotina)-pocosin, loblolly pine (P. taeda)- shortleaf pine, and elm-ash-cottonwood (Ulmus spp.-Fraxinus spp.-Populus spp.). Marginal winter habitat includes sand pine (P. clausa)-southern scrub oak, longleaf pine (P. palustris)- southern scrub oak, sandhills longleaf pine, longleaf pine-slash pine (P. elliottii), and oak-gum-cypress (Quercus spp.-Liquidambar styraciflua and Nyssa spp.-Taxodium spp.) [19].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Accipiter striatus
TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Spring Migration: In Maryland, spring migration occurs from February 25 to March 5, with peak activity from April 5 to May 5 [48]. In Oregon, sharp-shinned hawks arrived on nesting grounds in late April, the latest of the three accipiter species nesting in the area [42]. Nest Building: In Maryland, nesting activities commence in early May. Nesting is initiated until mid-July [48]. The sharp-shinned hawk nest consists of sticks and twigs and is lined with strips of bark. It is up to 2 feet (0.6 m) across, usually situated in a crotch or branch of a tree next to the trunk, and ranges from 10 to 60 feet (3-18 m) above the ground. New nests are usually built each year, but sharp-shinned hawks occasionally adapt a squirrel (Tasaciurus and Sciurus spp.) or crow (Corvus spp.) nest [14,50]. Clutch: Eggs are laid from May to July. During egg production, eggs are laid on alternate days [40]. In New York, egg dates range from April 16 to June 21 [9]. In Wyoming, the earliest egg laying date was June 16 [7]. In Oregon, mean clutch completion date was May 26 and did not vary much with elevation [42]. Clutch size is usually four or five eggs, but ranges from three to eight eggs [14,50]. Eggs are incubated by both parents [50]; incubation periods range from 34 to 35 days [9], and all eggs usually hatch within a 36-hour period [40]. There is usually only one brood per nesting season [9]. Development of Young: In Wyoming the average number of days in the nest was 21, with a maximum number of 28 days [7]. Reynolds [42] reported an average nestling period in Oregon of 23 days. Other authors reported that females fledge at approximately 27 days and males fledge at approximately 24 days after hatching [9,14]. In an Oregon study, 70 to 100 percent of hatched young survived to fly [44]. The fledglings remain near the nest area and are fed by both parents for at least 21 and up to 50 days [39,42,50]. Food delivery by the parents decreases markedly at 42 to 47 days [39]. Juvenile sharp-shinned hawks go through first molt and acquire adult plumage at just over 1 year of age [23]. Fall Migration: Most sharp-shinned hawks in northern portions of the breeding range migrate; birds that remain in the far north over the winter are mostly juveniles, and do not usually survive the winter. Most southwestern nesting sharp-shinned hawks also leave nesting territories on a seasonal basis, but these birds probably do not travel extensively [39]. Sharp-shinned hawks form large flocks during migration [15] and often follow migrating flocks of songbirds. Migration activity is initiated from late August to October [35]. In Maryland, fall migration occurs from September 1 to November 25 [48]. Breeding Age and Longevity: Some sharp-shinned hawks first breed as yearlings, but most do not breed until later [39]. Sharp-shinned hawk ages of up to 12 years have been recorded; however, few sharp-shinned hawks live longer than 5 years [39,50]. Mortality: Major identifiable causes of sharp-shinned hawk mortality include "road kill" and predators [25]. Evans and Rosenfield [8] reported sharp-shinned hawk mortality from collision with windows. In the first half of this century, a large number of sharp-shinned hawks were shot during migration (large flocks were easy targets); hawks are now under legal protection so this threat is greatly reduced [45]. These hawks are still shot in the belief that they represent a threat to domestic fowl or to songbirds [8,39]. Juvenile mortality is highest in fall and winter. However, almost half of mortality in older birds occurs in spring, apparently caused by the rigors of spring travel, and occurs mostly among females [39]. PREFERRED HABITAT : Sharp-shinned hawks breed in coniferous forests adjacent to other types of stands; prey is usually more plentiful in mixed or patchy forests than in large continuous stands of conifers [39]. Nesting: Sharp-shinned hawk nests are built within the canopy rather than below it. Nest trees typically have dense foliage and are usually conifers. In Utah, some sharp-shinned hawk nests were built in diseased deciduous trees that had abnormally dense foliage [40]. In Missouri, nests were typically built in shortleaf pine or in Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) trees [54]. In canyons, nest trees are usually 165 to 330 feet (50-100 m) upslope from a stream [27,42]. In northwestern Oregon, most nest trees were on gentle to moderate slopes (15-37%) with northerly exposures; nest trees in eastern Oregon were on slopes ranging from 8 to 47 percent [43]. Nests are occasionally built in rock crevices or hollow trees [50]. In Oregon, sharp-shinned hawks nest from near sea level to near timberline [42]; Nests were found from 396 feet (120 m) to 6,633 feet (2,010 m) elevation [43]. Nesting habitat for sharp-shinned hawks usually consists of dense stands of trees with a well developed canopy (canopy cover of 60% or more) and a dense understory [27]. In Oregon, sharp-shinned hawks breed in young (30- to 70-year-old), mature (80- to 190-year-old), and old-growth (over 190 years) forest [20]. In the Sierra Nevada, mixed conifer forests are suitable habitat for sharp-shinned hawks. Seral stages and cover classes of suitable nesting habitat are as follows: pole-medium tree stage with 40 to 69 percent canopy cover, pole-medium tree stage with 70 percent or more canopy cover, and large tree stage with 70 percent or more canopy cover [53]. In western forests, sharp-shinned hawks breed in dense, young (25- to 50-year-old), even-aged second-growth stands with single-layered canopies [27], and in 40- to 60-year-old even-aged conifer stands [5,42]. In the Inland Northwest, sharp-shinned hawks breed in pole-sapling, young, and mature mixed conifer forests, but not in shrub-seedling stands or in old-growth forests [46]. In Idaho, between May and August, sharp-shinned hawks were usually observed in open riparian habitat or in parklike stands of coniferous forest. However, it was noted that these hawks are difficult to observe in the dense forests in which nests are built [52]. In Oregon, mean stand density of nest sites was 472 trees per acre (1,180 trees/ha). Typical forest structure for Oregon nest sites is an overstocked stand with a shallow canopy and many dead limbs below the live crowns [42]. In Oregon, nest sites (described as the area used by a nesting pair and fledglings including roosts and perches used to pluck prey) averaged about 9.9 acres (4 ha). The average nesting range in Idaho was 0.33 square mile (0.85 sq km) [52] and in Wyoming was 0.44 square mile (1.1 sq km) [7]. In Oregon, minimum nesting territory size was estimated as 0.4 square mile (1 sq km) [20]. Many nest sites had limits coinciding with discrete boundaries between vegetative structures or topographic features [42]. In Oregon, nest density was estimated as one nest per 6,792 acres (2,750 ha), with mean nearest conspecific neighbor distance of 2.5 miles (4.1 km) [44]. In Idaho, nest density was estimated as 4.2 pairs of sharp-shinned hawks per 10 square miles (1.6 pairs per 10 sq km) [52]. Foraging: Foraging habitat for sharp-shinned hawks includes nesting habitat, but the hawks also forage in more open environments [27]. In the Inland Northwest, sharp-shinned hawks feed in shrub-seedling stands and in pole-sapling, young, mature, and old-growth mixed conifer forests [46]. Sharp-shinned hawk habitat includes canyons, valleys, and riparian areas [27]. Migration: Concentrations of migrating sharp-shinned hawks have been observed along the ridgetops of the Allegheny Mountains in the Ridge and Valley Sections [48]. During migration sharp-shinned hawks will occupy almost any type of habitat that contains trees or shrubs [10]. Wintering: The sharp-shinned hawk is less specific in its habitat preferences in winter than in summer, and occurs in almost any forested or shrubby habitat including riparian areas, woodlands, farmlands, urban areas, and other areas more open than nesting habitat [10]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : Nesting Cover: Nests are almost always built in trees with very dense foliage [10,39]. Foraging Cover: Sharp-shinned hawks prefer perches with substantial arboreal cover from which to spot and capture prey; however, these perches are often located near open areas in which prey is more easily spotted and pursued [27]. FOOD HABITS : Sharp-shinned hawks prey largely on small birds; typically, prey birds are sparrow-sized but occasionally larger birds are taken [10]. Sharp-shinned hawks forage in open forest, on the forest floor, in meadow grasses, and in bushy pastures [10,39]. A characteristic hunting style is to spot prey from a well-hidden perch and then fly quickly out to capture it. The sharp-shinned hawk "is numero uno at sneak attack" [39]. Other styles include speculative flight: The sharp-shinned hawk flies (flaps and glides) close to the ground, darting under branches or across small openings and over brushfields or meadows. The hawk can turn rapidly to grasp small birds in flight, drop to catch them on the ground, or grab prey that is perched. Prey is often pursued into dense foliage. Top flight speed is 28 miles per hour (47 km/h) [10,14,39,59]. In Colorado, birds constituted 91.1 percent of the prey of 11 nesting pairs of sharp-shinned hawks. The most frequently taken bird species included yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata), American robin (Turdus migratorius), white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), and dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis). Yellow-rumped warblers, dark-eyed juncos, and American robins were among the most abundant birds in the area. Small birds were eaten in proportion to their relative frequency in dominant and secondary habitat types, but the proportion eaten was different from relative abundance in limited habitats. Mammals averaged 8.9 percent of prey taken; 60 percent of the mammals eaten were voles (Clethrionomys, Microtus, and Phenacomys spp.) [24]. In North America, the most common bird species taken by sharp-shinned hawks include American robin, starling (Sturnus vulgaris), catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), towhees (Pipilo spp.), sparrows (Aimophila spp., Spizella spp., and others), and brown creeper (Certhia americana) [39,50]. Prey as small as Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) and as large as northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and young domestic fowl have been reported. Nestlings and young birds are common prey items, including the young of gallinaceous birds [3] and other predatory birds such as flammulated owls (Asio flammeus) [34]. Occasionally, the sharp-shinned hawk preys on mice, shrews, moles, young lagomorphs, bats, red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), frogs, butterflies, grasshoppers, and moths [3,9,39]. In southern Arizona, sharp-shinned hawks were frequently seen perched or flying in habitat preferred by Gambel's quail and were assumed to represent a major cause of Gambel's quail mortality [17]. Sharp-shinned hawks have been known to attack pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus), but it is unclear whether attacks are territorial or prandial in intent [39]. PREDATORS : Nestling sharp-shinned hawks are preyed upon by other raptors including Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperi) and northern goshawk (A. gentilis) [3]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sharp-shinned hawk populations are fairly stable in the United States, although the species is endangered in some states [10,23]. The sharp-shinned hawk is uncommonly seen except in the extreme southeastern United States and in Canada [39]. It is uncommon in New England during the breeding season, and uncommon to rare in winter [9]. The decline of sharp-shinned hawk populations in the eastern United States in the 1960's and 1970's was attributed to the thinning effect of DDT on eggshells [50]. Most populations appear to be in recovery from declines in the early 1970's and 1980's [10], although in some regions they continue to decline. Sauer and others [47] summarized breeding bird surveys and banding studies from 1966 to 1987; in the central region sharp-shinned hawks declined by 2.3 percent per year in breeding bird surveys (38 survey routes). Rosenfield and others [45] noted that sharp-shinned hawks are difficult to census, particularly during breeding season when they spend most of the time below the canopy in dense forests. Land use impacts on raptor habitat include reduction and fragmentation of habitat and reduction in prey availability [38]. The sharp-shinned hawk is rated as a generalist with respect to microhabitat (is not associated with a specific microhabitat), a generalist in response to edge (uses both interiors and edges), and has a positive response to suitable habitat patch size. It is rated as 18 on a scale of 20 to sensitivity to landscape change, indicating that it is very sensitive to landscape change [20]. Reynolds [42] also stated that sharp-shinned hawks are vulnerable to changes in forest stands resulting from timber harvesting. The sharp-shinned hawk showed extreme sensitivity to forest fragmentation west of the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon, and California; it was not found in areas that were broken up into small patches of forest [21]. A table showing the effects of different logging practices on raptors in the northeastern United States indicated that any logging has negative effects on sharp-shinned hawk nesting. Selection cuts and clearcuts, however, are beneficial for home range (i.e., foraging) and local population size, probably due to increased availability of prey [37]. Munro and Cowan [36] noted that the sharp-shinned hawk was present in regenerating cutover and burned areas in British Columbia. It seems likely that the hawks were foraging in these areas due to an influx of granivorous birds, but nesting elsewhere. General recommendations for forest timber management to preserve sharp- shinned hawk habitat include small clearcuts only (that is, no large clearcuts), a mosaic of different-aged stands, and most importantly, the maintenance of large uncut tracts of mature timber [2,5]. During the breeding season, large areas around active nest sites need to be left undisturbed [5]. Reynolds [42] recommended uncut areas of a minimum of 9.9 acres (4 ha) around active nests in Oregon. In addition, management of raptor habitat needs to take into account nest site turnover; sharp-shinned hawks usually build new nests every year. Neither active nor prospective nest sites should be precommercially or commercially thinned. To maintain nesting densities of sharp-shinned hawks at the level found in Oregon, currently suitable nest sites should be provided at a density of approximately 20 sites per township (36 square miles [90 sq km]). Further study is needed to determine the size and shape of home ranges and the extent to which these habitats are used for foraging. In addition, studies are needed to determine appropriate densities for nest sites in other localities [42]. The sharp-shinned hawk is listed as a species that depends on forests and undisturbed riparian habitats, and is likely to decline or be eliminated from areas that are converted to agricultural use. Sharp-shinned hawks occasionally use agricultural areas in winter; the response to conversion of winter habitat to agricultural use is likely to depend on the extent of human activity and availability of prey [57]. Mansell [35] noted the presence of a sharp-shinned hawk in and near a 25-year-old abandoned field (presumably in the eastern United States), but sharp-shinned hawks had not been present while the field was in cultivation, despite the presence of domestic fowl. Grimm and Yahner [18] suggested that in the Northeast, sharp-shinned hawks may respond best to selection cuts favoring conifers growing under an overstory of hardwoods. Nearby patches of early successional vegetation produced by clearcuts may also represent habitat improvement, if silvicultural treatments are not extensive in size [37]. In Rhode Island, migrant sharp-shinned hawks were observed using placed perches consisting of dead trees, but were never observed using artificial perches constructed of milled timber [41].


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Accipiter striatus
DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : Direct, fire-caused mortality of sharp-shinned hawks has not been reported in the literature. Nestlings and eggs are probably vulnerable to fire; most fledglings and adults could easily escape fire [33]. Some authors [28,51] have described the attraction of hawks to readily available prey at fires and on fresh burns. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : The effects of fire on sharp-shinned hawk habitat are related to habitat structure and to prey abundance and availability. The sharp-shinned hawk is most benefited by a mixture of habitats. Fire in dense conifers tends to thin understories and open canopies, making them less suitable for sharp-shinned hawk nesting habitat; severe fire can destroy nest trees, roost sites, and perching sites [33,58]. However, open canopies are more suitable for hunting. Thus, the sharp-shinned hawk is vulnerable to either extreme: loss of nesting habitat with fire, or the lack of open foraging areas without fire [58]. Lehman and Allendorf [33] stated that lack of fire, with concomitant increases in the density of vegetation, can result in an increase in sharp-shinned hawk numbers. However, sharp-shinned hawks occur in the following fire-dependent (sensu Wright and Bailey [56]) ecosystems: ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganticus), and chaparral [33]. Lawrence [31] reported that predatory birds increased in burned chaparral for the first 2 postfire years, but declined the third year. Sharp-shinned hawks were more abundant in the burned area in the first postfire years, probably due to the increased vulnerability of prey. Declines in later postfire years were attributed to increased vegetative cover. In the Southwest, sharp-shinned hawk prey populations and diversity decreased during long fire-free intervals; the loss was attributed to a reduction in grassy understory and in structural diversity caused by lack of fire [12]. FIRE USE : NO-ENTRY


WILDLIFE SPECIES: Accipiter striatus
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